Sleep deprivation

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Sleep deprivation is a mental state which occurs when one has not received adequate quantities of sleep for extended periods of time. This can occur naturally from insomnia or it can be induced by extended stimulant use; it differs from stimulant psychosis in its somewhat predictable timeline of deterioration of physical, mental, and visual abilities through predictable subjective effects.

The progression of the sleep deprivation experience can be broken down into hours gone without sleep, excluding micro-sleep sessions which may occur. A microsleep is a short period of time, from 10 to 60 seconds, in which the brain enters a sleep state, regardless of what the person is doing at the time. The affected individual often is not aware of the occurrence of the microsleep, experiencing only a brief skip forward in time.[1]

While humans are physically capable of surviving extended periods of sleep deprivation, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain awake and alert, until the person is inevitably unable to consciously resist falling asleep.[citation needed]

Subjective effects

The effects of sleep deprivation intensify as one is subjected to more time without sleep. Up to the 24-48 hour mark, the cognitive effects are manageable and perceptual effects are limited to the peripheral vision and hearing of the sufferer. However, as time goes on, the effects become all consuming and can render normal life impossible.

Sleep deprivation effects are expressed differently through populations including but not limited to age, gender, and occupation[2]. Keeping this in mind, people will have different reactions to different levels of sleep deprivation.

Physical effects

Visual effects

Cognitive effects

Auditory effects


A main neurotransmitter which is involved in the effects of sleep deprivation is adenosine. Adenosine is released and builds up when a person is awake, and with sleep deprivation this can cause high amounts of adenosine to be released. Sleep deprivation increases activation of adenosine A1 receptors[4], which inhibit release of glutamate and acetylcholine[5], which could be involved in hallucinations and delusions caused by sleep deprivation.

During sleep deprivation, increased amounts of dopamine are released in the brain[6]. This is likely responsible for the euphoric and disinhibiting effects from early stage sleep deprivation, and may also have a role in the hallucinogenic effects of sleep deprivation.


Additional experience reports can be found here:

See also

External links


  1. Stanley Coren, P. (1 March 1998). "Sleep Deprivation, Psychosis and Mental Efficiency". Psychiatric Times. 15 (3). 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alhola, P., Polo-Kantola, P. (October 2007). "Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance". Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 3 (5): 553–567. ISSN 1176-6328. 
  3. Anwar, Y., Relations, M. (2001), Pulling an all-nighter can bring on euphoria and risky behavior 
  4. Elmenhorst, D., Meyer, P. T., Winz, O. H., Matusch, A., Ermert, J., Coenen, H. H., Basheer, R., Haas, H. L., Zilles, K., Bauer, A. (28 February 2007). "Sleep deprivation increases A1 adenosine receptor binding in the human brain: a positron emission tomography study". The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 27 (9): 2410–2415. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5066-06.2007. ISSN 1529-2401. 
  5. Sperlágh, B., Vizi, E. S. (April 2011). "The Role of Extracellular Adenosine in Chemical Neurotransmission in the Hippocampus and Basal Ganglia: Pharmacological and Clinical Aspects". Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry. 11 (8): 1034–1046. doi:10.2174/156802611795347564. ISSN 1568-0266. 
  6. One Sleepless Night Increases Dopamine In The Human Brain 

Further reading